Covid raids pockets of wealthy Kenyans as dollar millionaires decline

Written By: Ronald Owili

Maina Mwangi, Executive Director Knight Frank Kenya, Tilda Mwai, Knight Frank Researcher Africa, Ben Woodhams MD Knight Frank Kenya unveiling The Wealth Report 2021 in Kenya. PHOTO | Courtesy

912 Kenyans can no longer claim to be dollar millionaires as the 15th Wealth Report by Knight Frank reveals the effects the health pandemic has had on investors.

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According to the report released on Wednesday, the number of High Net Worth Individuals (HNWI) whose wealth is at least $1 million (Kshs. 110 million) dropped 22%, from 4,235 registered in 2019 to 3,323 when the outbreak was reported in Kenya.

The decline now means Tanzania which has had minimal COVID-19 restrictions now has more dollar millionaires than Kenya at 3,700 even after a drop of 8% when compared to 2019 when the neighbouring country had 4,002 High Net Worth Individuals.

“Wealthy people have become wealthy because they make good business decisions and so it is very important for us to understand how they make those decisions particularity in a time of crisis such as the pandemic we are in at the moment,” said Ben Woodhams Knight Frank Kenya Managing Director.

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On the other hand, the Ultra High Net Worth Individuals (UHNWI) with excess of $30 million (Kshs. 3.3 billion) were able to withstand the effects of the virus as only 16 individuals were booted from the club, from 106 in 2019 to 90 in 2020, a 15% drop.

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“Usually the UHNWI are people who diversify their portfolio and are able to withstand the test of time whether due to different geography they invest and asset class they invest in,” said Tilda Mwai, Knight Frank Researcher Africa.

According to Knight Frank, while the number those joining the dollar millionaires club in Kenya remained stagnant between 2015-2020, the economic recovery being plotted worldwide with the roll out of mass vaccination will see the number rise by 46% while those in the multi-million dollar category rise 22% within five years.

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“Where economies were subdued we did see the level of HNWI decline and in areas where currency depreciation was a challenge, that also contributed to a decline,” Mwai added.

The report lists Kenya among countries with the largest drop in HNWI population due to the unfriendly investment climate last year including Romania and Spain which lost 22% of the group each.

Africa recorded 8% drop in the HNWI population which declined from 251,511 in 2019 to 231, 309 last year.

In Africa, majority of the wealthy individuals derive their wealth from own businesses at 47%, investment portfolio 19%, salaried employment 15%, mix 15% and other at 4%.

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Kshs. 2 million gets you into the 1% club

If you have cool $20,000 (Kshs. 2.2 million) sitting pretty in your bank account then congratulations, that is your ticket to join Kenya’s 1% club.

The $20,000 entry point into the world’s exclusive club for Kenya is however miles lower when compared to Monaco’s $7.9 million, Switzerland $5.1 million and USA $4.4 million.

In South Africa, $180,000 gets you the 1 percentile status while in Nigeria you will need $70,000.

“Wealth inequality has become starker within countries and globally, particularly as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, and this is likely to become a point of growing contention.” the report stated.


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